How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?…But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.
- Psalm 13:1-2a, 5-6
How much longer is this lock down going to last? When can we go back to work or at least get a haircut or nails done or any of the other shops reopen? When will I be able to gather for worship again? As we enter the 4th week of the social distancing experiment we start looking to the end of our quarantine - which was only supposed to be 14 days (now day 23 as I write this). I feel a lot like the dad on the road trip who keeps hearing from the back seat, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”
I think back to many accounts of “social distancing” in the Bible and realize there is a pattern. When the “floodgates of heaven were opened” in Noah’s day, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. When Moses went alone up Mt. Sinai to get God’s Law, he was up there for 40 days and 40 nights. When Jesus went by Himself (unless you count the Devil as company) to the wilderness, He was there 40 days and 40 nights. In the cleanliness laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, we see a quarantine (must live outside the camp) that lasts 40 days until one is considered “clean” again. It makes me wonder if this ancient pattern of 40 days is just how God made this world to function.
According to the latest from the CDC on the SARS-Cov2-19 virus and its effects; the time from exposure to viral shedding (when you are contagious) is 10 days. The time from exposure to appearance of symptoms (incubation time) is 14 days - so one can spread it for 4 days before any clue of being infected. From the onset of symptoms to hospitalization (80% of cases do not require hospitalization) is 10-14 days based on overall health and any underlying / pre-existing conditions. From hospitalization or treatment to death or recover averages about 7-10 days. So let’s do the math: 14 days from exposure to symptoms + 14 days before symptoms require external care + 10-14 days of hospitalization = 38-42 days (40 days on average). Hmm, maybe the 40 days “outside the camp” was the right way to go. Can God’s wisdom (ancient and ____ as it may be) really be as good or better than CDC’s guidance and directives? It’s amazing how often science with all its “new” breakthroughs and “we know more now than any time before us” attitude simply says what God has said for the last 3,500 years or so.
As we look to Gov. Murphy’s daily briefings, we keep hearing about the difficulty of declaring a peak in the curve. As of today’s briefing we should be hitting the peak sometime in the next few days if we haven’t already. That would put us 20-24 days into the “stay at home” time frame. We’ll be at peak for 3-7 days to make sure the daily figures are a trend, not just an anomaly. Then it will take another week or two to make sure the curve has flattened. So all in all, about 40 days from executive order 107 to the gradual lifting of restrictions. If all this holds true, sometime around May 1st we should start getting “back to normal”, but that new normal will be quite different from pre-Covid19 times - but that’s next week’s blog.
I’d like to end with the words of one of New Jersey’s prophets. While not canonical, many look to these words for guidance and encouragement. Mr. Jon Bon Jovi wrote; “Woah, we’re half-way there. Woah, livin’ on a prayer. Take my hand (from 6ft away of course) and we’ll make it I swear. Woah, livin’ on a prayer.” As we hopefully come to the halfway point, I hope you will continue to pray that this plague is peaked and we will see fewer hospitalizations and deaths over the next few days and weeks. - Pastor Brian
Pastor Brian Handrich graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in 1997. He first served a dual parish in northeast Nebraska before coming to Flemington, New Jersey in 2002.